View from Pakistan: The urge to overstep

The case of fast bowler Mohammad Amir is yet another example of Pakistanis’ growing preoccupation with extreme, angry action against lawbreakers.
According to the logic, a convict doesn’t just need to pay for his crime; a convict has to be dismissed out of sight forever. No second chance is afforded and in many instances, the mob that catches someone in the act is sure and passionate enough to dispose of the guilty on the spot, with pride and an extreme sense of justice.

The urge to lynch is too strong to be confined within the available methods of dealing with the violators that civilisation has perfected over time. It is too overpowering to be limited to the killing of a few “robbers” in a Faisalabad village or in Sialkot or in Karachi or anywhere else in Pakistan. It must stalk all areas and fields in search of fresh prey. Many people in the country have loudly expressed their disapproval of Amir’s return to cricket after serving a ban for his involvement in spot-fixing. Above anything else, they are too sensitive about Pakistan’s image to allow the disgraced cricketer to wear the national colours again without resistance. For them, he is not just left-handed but sinister, someone who had stepped too far and who now justifies overstepping by those who are appalled by the sight of him up and running again. Amir was very young when he was called for wilful breach of law and he did confess.

That does not deter those who are opposing the lifting of the ban on him. He was not groomed to take the pressures of the international stage, was too raw for superstar status thrust upon him in a hurry in a situation where his country was desperate to fast-track new greats, and maybe too vulnerable to the advice and demands of those wielding power around him. These are aspects that do not appeal to the Amir-bashers who in the meantime appear to have overcome the hopes and expectations they had pinned on a younger Amir and learned to live without him.

The sympathy that the left-arm pacer generated during the execution of his term, has subsided and many in the crowd have since reconciled to the need to be “fair” rather than risk ending up in a fix again where they would be compelled to discuss the merits of talent against an act of sheer dishonesty. Fortunately, there is less mention of the conspiracy theories that we all are certain the international plotters indulge in against us all the time. What is puzzling, again, is the utter disregard for the limits set by the law.

Those who are critical of Amir’s return to cricket are perhaps not aware of what rehabilitation involves without them adding their own degree of difficulty to it. They could, if they so wanted, go over the case of the gentleman who ignominiously made it to a first information report registered over a petty crime many years ago. His name was cleared legally. Socially, he carries the burden to this day.

He was innocent and maybe more deserving of the sympathy. Leave him and take Javed, the man who had actually committed a crime, was convicted and spent time in jail. Upon his release, he took refuge behind walls as a painter, sold fruit by the roadside to strangers, tried to hide inside a laundry setting the creases on respectable attires. Many years on, he remains unsettled.

The last that was heard of him, his time in prison had haunted him, his wife and their three children and let them out of the city to a village on the margins of Lahore where they were less visible. The compromise that he had struck, his own little NRO, to get out of jail early wasn’t quite bought by the outside world as proof of his innocence. He was pardoned by those to whom he had caused grievous harm but he will always remain a suspect in the eyes of his “own” people.

Mohammad Amir will bear the stigma in a society that has been so brutalised that it is no more willing to make any allowance for human failing. It is in moments such as these that an organisation as haphazard in its direction as the PCB emerges as one talking some sense. The PCB has in recent years been repeatedly told the truth about the limited influence it can exert in its own area of jurisdiction.

Just as Amir goes through the process where he must resume his cricket on a more basic level, the PCB is looking desperately for phased rehabilitation of Pakistani cricket.

The PCB’s answer to those opposing Amir’s return is simple: he has served his term. The ICC’s position is also not complicated. Just as it found in the extremely promising Amir an ideal example for players to choose not the easy quick buck over an honourable career, it is now trying to use the fast bowler’s example to guide those who might succumb to the temptation in future: confess, repent, serve time before you can hope to make a return.

That’s been the formula. It isn’t for those who must lynch with relish anyone they can lay their hands on.

The writer is Dawn’s resident editor in Lahore; By arrangement with Dawn

( Source : dc )
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